Ceres High's varsity girls water polo team had to settle for a runner-up finish behind Los Banos in the Western Athletic Conference standings for the second consecutive season.
The reigning WAC-champion Tigers prevented the Bulldogs from winning their first-ever league title with a 10-5 home victory on Oct. 23.
"I keep playing the game over and over in my head," Ceres High head coach Stephen Dias said. "It's going to take a couple days to get over losing. We had a strong team. We were contenders."
Los Banos placed first with a near-perfect 8-1 mark in the 2017 WAC standings.
Ceres High posted a 7-2 record. The Bulldogs went 1-2 versus the Tigers.
Los Banos edged out Ceres High 8-7 for the conference crown last season.
"When I first started here seven years ago, we weren't winning anything," Dias said. "We took second the last two years. I'm proud of the girls."
Dias and his players believed they would make program history last week by claiming their first conference crown.
The Bulldogs kept their WAC title hopes alive with a 10-5 victory against the Tigers on Oct. 17 in Ceres.
"We had confidence we could do it," Dias said. "We made some mistakes we shouldn't have made."
Host Ceres High wrapped up the WAC campaign by dominating third-place Livingston (3-6) on Wednesday.
Seniors Camryn Elness, Emily Campidonica, Noelia De Leon, Savannah Zielke, Savannah Jordan, Crystal Piceno and Angelina Colunga were feted with flowers during a special ceremony before their final home match.
"I've been teaching for 25 years," Dias said. "I say goodbye to kids every year. It's a cycle of life. You want them to grow up, move on and do great things in life."
Ceres High will face host El Capitan in the Division-II playoffs this week.